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What to Do if A Dog is Choking: A Guide for Dog Owners

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

dog with ball in mouth

Human can choke too. Check out our article Life-Saving First Aid Techniques for Choking Victims.

Humans aren't the only ones susceptible to choking; our furry friends can too. For more on this, delve into our article, "Life-Saving First Aid Techniques for Choking Victims."

As a devoted dog parent, your canine companion is more than just a pet; they're an integral part of your family. Their welfare is paramount, and safeguarding them is your duty. One of the most distressing scenarios you could encounter is your cherished pet choking.

This isn't an isolated incident; the American Veterinary Medical Association categorizes choking as one of the primary emergency situations for pets. It can strike unexpectedly, transforming an ordinary day into a crisis in a heartbeat.

The ordeal can be petrifying, but armed with the right knowledge and skills, you can be the lifeline your pet needs. This guide is your roadmap to understanding and managing a choking incident with clarity and confidence.

We'll delve into identifying the symptoms of a choking dog, immediate interventions, preventive strategies, and when to seek professional assistance. By the end of this guide, you'll be armed with the knowledge to act promptly and effectively, potentially saving your dog's life.

Recognizing the Signs of a Choking Dog

When it comes to choking, every second counts. The quicker you can discern that your dog is choking, the faster you can intervene. However, dogs can't express their distress verbally, so it's vital to recognize the physical and behavioral signs that signal choking.

Physical Signs

A choking dog will often display certain physical signs. They may paw at their mouth, a clear sign that something is causing discomfort or pain. Excessive drooling or salivation can also be a symptom, as the dog's body attempts to lubricate the stuck object to facilitate its passage. Difficulty breathing is another major warning sign.

You might observe your dog gasping for air, making wheezing sounds, or even starting to turn blue around the gums and tongue due to oxygen deprivation. In severe cases, loss of consciousness can occur.

Behavioral Changes

Alongside physical signs, your dog's behavior can also undergo a dramatic shift when they're choking. They may display signs of panic, such as pacing, restlessness, or frantic behavior. Some dogs may become unusually aggressive or fearful due to the distress they're experiencing. It's crucial to remember that these behavioral changes are driven by fear and discomfort, so approach your dog calmly and gently to avoid exacerbating the situation.

Immediate Actions to Take if Your Dog is Choking


Upon identifying that your dog is choking, immediate action is imperative. However, it's crucial to tackle the situation with a clear mind and a steady hand. Here's a step-by-step guide on what to do.

Stay Calm

First and foremost, it's vital to maintain composure. Your dog is already in a state of panic, and your anxiety can further heighten their stress. Take a deep breath, collect your thoughts, and approach the situation methodically. Your calm demeanor can also help pacify your pet and facilitate the process.

Check the Dog's Mouth

Next, if it's safe, inspect your dog's mouth for the obstruction. Use a flashlight if necessary. If you can see the object and it's within reach, attempt to remove it gently with a pair of tweezers or pliers. Be cautious not to push the object further down the throat. Also, be mindful of your dog's distress; even the most docile dog may bite out of fear.

Perform the Heimlich Maneuver

If you can't remove the obstruction or if it's not visible, you may need to execute the Heimlich maneuver on your dog. The procedure varies slightly depending on the size of your dog:

Small Dogs: Lift your dog so their spine is against your chest, place a fist just below the ribcage, and apply four to five firm inward and upward thrusts.

Large Dogs: Stand over your dog, who should be standing on all fours. Place a fist just below the ribcage and apply four to five firm inward and upward thrusts.

Be careful not to apply too much force to avoid causing injury. The goal is to push air up and out of the lungs, forcing the object out of the throat.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Choking

dog eating

Consider a slow feeder bowl if your dog has trouble eating to quickly. Purchase here.

While it's crucial to know how to respond to a choking incident, prevention is always the best strategy. By adopting some simple precautions, you can significantly mitigate the risk of your dog choking.

Proper Feeding Habits

One of the most prevalent causes of choking in dogs is rapid eating. When dogs gulp their food, they're more likely to swallow large pieces that can become lodged in their throat. Encourage your dog to eat slowly by using specially designed slow-feeder bowls. These bowls have ridges or compartments that make your dog work a bit harder to get their food, slowing down their eating pace.

Safe Toys and Chewables

Toys and chewables are another common choking hazard. Always supervise your dog when they're playing or chewing, and ensure the items are suitable for your dog's size and chewing style. Toys should be large enough that your dog can't swallow them whole and durable enough that they can't be chewed into small, swallowable pieces. Regularly inspect your dog's toys for signs of wear and tear and replace any that are broken or worn out.


Regular Vet Check-ups

Regular vet check-ups are also essential for preventing choking. Your vet can identify any dental problems or throat abnormalities that might increase your dog's risk of choking. They can also provide personalized advice based on your dog's breed, size, and eating habits.

To illustrate the importance of these prevention strategies, consider the following table:

Choking Prevention Tips

dog with toy in mouth

When to Seek Professional Help

Despite your best efforts, there may be instances when you can't alleviate your dog's choking on your own. It's important to recognize when professional help is required and act swiftly to get your dog the care they need.

Persistent Choking

If your dog continues to show signs of choking despite your attempts to dislodge the object, it's time to seek immediate veterinary assistance. Persistent choking can lead to oxygen deprivation, which can cause serious harm or even be fatal.

Post-Choking Check-Up

Even if you successfully dislodge the object and your dog appears to be fine, it's still advisable to visit the vet. Choking can cause internal injuries that aren't immediately apparent. A vet can perform a thorough examination to ensure there's no residual damage. They can also provide advice on how to monitor your dog in the days following the incident for any signs of complications.

Emergency Vet Contact

It's a great idea to keep your vet's contact information and the location of the nearest 24-hour emergency vet clinic readily available. In a crisis, every second counts, and having this information at your fingertips can save precious time.

Remember, your vet is your partner in your pet's health. Don't hesitate to reach out to them if you have any concerns about your dog's risk of choking or how to handle a choking incident. They can provide expert advice tailored to your dog's specific needs.


As a dog owner, you are your pet's first line of defense against choking. The knowledge and skills you've gained from this guide empower you to act swiftly and effectively in a choking emergency.

From recognizing the signs of a choking dog to knowing the immediate actions to take, every piece of information is a crucial part of ensuring your dog's safety. Prevention, too, plays a significant role in reducing the risk of choking incidents. By promoting proper feeding habits, choosing safe toys and chewables, and maintaining regular vet check-ups, you can help create a safer environment for your dog.

But remember, even with all these precautions, emergencies can still occur. That's why it's essential to stay prepared and know when to seek professional help. Your prompt action, coupled with professional veterinary care, can make all the difference in a choking emergency.

I recall a time when my friend's dog, a Golden Retriever named Max, began choking on a small rubber ball during playtime. It was a terrifying moment, but thanks to the knowledge I had gained about dog choking and how to handle it, I was able to stay calm and perform the Heimlich maneuver, successfully dislodging the ball from Max's throat. This experience underscored for me the importance of being prepared for such emergencies.

In the end, your dog relies on you for their well-being. By equipping yourself with the right knowledge and skills, you can ensure you're ready to protect your furry friend in any situation. Consider taking a pet first aid course to further enhance your readiness for emergencies. After all, our pets give us their unconditional love and companionship; it's only fair we do our best to keep them safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Signs of a Dog Choking?

The signs of a dog choking can include pawing at the mouth, excessive drooling, difficulty breathing, coughing, gagging, and changes in behavior such as panic or fear. In severe cases, the dog's gums and tongue may turn blue or white due to a lack of oxygen.

What Should I Do If My Dog Is Choking?

If your dog is choking, first try to stay calm and check your dog's mouth for the obstruction. If you can see and easily reach the object without getting bitten, try to remove it gently. If you can't remove the obstruction, you may need to perform the Heimlich maneuver. If your dog continues to choke despite your efforts, seek immediate veterinary help.

Can a Dog Choke on Dry Food?

Yes, a dog can choke on dry food, especially if they eat too quickly or gulp down large pieces of food. To prevent this, encourage your dog to eat slowly. You can use specially designed slow-feeder bowls to help slow down your dog's eating pace.

How Can I Prevent My Dog from Choking?

You can prevent your dog from choking by promoting proper feeding habits, choosing safe toys and chewables, and maintaining regular vet check-ups. Always supervise your dog when they're playing with toys or chewing on bones or treats, and make sure these items are appropriate for your dog's size and chewing style.

What Is the Heimlich Maneuver for Dogs?

The Heimlich maneuver for dogs involves standing behind your dog and placing your hands just below their ribcage. Apply firm upward pressure to try to expel the object. The procedure varies slightly depending on the size of your dog. For small dogs, you can lift them off the ground and perform the maneuver, while for larger dogs, you should keep them standing on all fours.

Should I Take My Dog to the Vet After Choking?

Yes, even if you successfully dislodge the object and your dog appears to be fine, it's still a good idea to visit the vet. Choking can cause internal injuries that aren't immediately apparent. A vet can perform a thorough examination to ensure there's no residual damage.


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